Wireless Security Cameras

Review by Megan Wollerton CNET
Of the DIY security cameras we've reviewed, battery-powered models are not particularly common. That's because you usually have to give up key features like live streaming and HD video quality so you aren't constantly swapping out batteries. The trade-off, of course, is a camera that's plugged into an outlet 24/7.
Interestingly, Netgear didn't do away with those power-hungry options when it made its battery-only, 720p-resolution, motion-sensing, night-vision-equipped, indoor/outdoor Arlo cameras. They retain the resolution and on-demand video feed of a typically-tethered camera and add on the free-roaming flexibility of one that's battery-powered. The result is an elegant solution to a classic security camera conundrum.
Plant these beauties in and around your home for an impressively solid system that's unmoved by shifts in the weather. Just make sure you keep CR123 lithium batteries handy, as battery life will vary a lot based on usage and proximity to the included Netgear Arlo hub. Still, I recommend Arlo to anyone in need of an adaptable indoor/outdoor camera system. The two-camera kit I reviewed here costs $255, but you can also get a single-camera kit for $138 and additional cameras for $145 each at Amazon.
Arlo in Action
The kit I reviewed comes with two HD cameras, eight CR123 lithium batteries (four per camera, they can run with just two batteries, though), four magnetic mounts with included hardware and a hub that connects to the router. The hub and cameras are finished in glossy white plastic. The hub seems unnecessarily large and utilitarian-looking, but otherwise fine.
The palm-sized cameras are much more discreet. Each one has a 130-degree field of view and automatically-adjusting night vision. Netgear claims that Arlo cameras have an operating range of up to 300 feet from the hub and a 4 to 6-month battery life. This is where Arlo's impressive adaptability breaks down a little bit for me.
That 300-foot range appears to be true only under optimal conditions -- with few to no obstacles interfering with the signal. Also, the distance between each camera and the hub, how often you access features like live streaming and whether or not you set the cameras to "best video," "optimized" or "best battery life" mode will all influence how long the cameras last before needing new batches of CR123's.
However, after a week of testing the Arlo cameras mainly in "best video" mode, both cameras still have a full charge. Interestingly, though, when I take the fully-charged cameras outside in the below-freezing weather, the battery status indicators drop swiftly. When I return inside, the status bars go back to their previously fully-charged setting.
Arlo's operating temperature range is 14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (about -9 to 50 degree Celsius) -- some complaints have surfaced online showing that a cold Arlo camera could claim to have a lower battery life than it really does. We aren't exactly in the arctic tundra here in Kentucky, but the winter temperatures regularly dip below freezing and 14 degrees Fahrenheit certainly isn't an impossibility. Since that's also true for a large portion of the country, I wonder about this system's outdoor reliability by season.
Even so, I was impressed by each camera's "true" range (closer to 150 feet during testing), the minimal lag time in live streaming mode, the responsive mobile alerts and email notifications, the crisp 720p resolution in day and night mode and the ability to access MP4 files of the clips from the email notifications. I would like to see a speaker and a microphone integrated into its setup, though.
I tested this kit out at three locations and was always surprised by how easy it was to set up.
The initial configuration took less than ten minutes and each following attempt less than five. Just connect the hub's ethernet cable and power cord to the router and download the free Android or iOS app. You can create an account on either the mobile or Web app. Then, add the batteries, sync the cameras with the hub (this requires pressing the sync button on the hub and then on each camera) and you're ready to stick your cameras wherever the hub's range will allow.
Inside the App
The app's home screen displays all of your connected cameras. The free, 7-day recording option lets you sync as many as five cameras. There's also a 30-day option that costs $10 a month and lets you sync up to 10 cameras, as well as a 60-day option that costs $15 a month and lets you sync up to 15 cameras (you will need more than one hub to accommodate this many cameras, though). Each add-on camera costs $160.
Unlike some other live-streaming interfaces, this one has play and pause buttons. This sort of forced opt-in design probably helps keep the battery life in check, but it is slightly inconvenient. Still, you can watch multiple live streams at once or watch one camera on a full-screen view. Within live stream mode, you can record or take a photo on-demand as well as adjust the brightness of the shot.
The library section displays a calendar. Select a certain day to get access to saved clips. The mode and settings sections allow you to really customize your cameras. Mode section lets you set schedules for the motion sensor or simply turn them on or off at-a-glance. Access settings to manage your cloud storage, push notifications, video quality and more.
While the Netgear Arlo doesn't currently have an IFTTT channel or integrate with any third-party devices, these small cameras can do so much on their own that they're definitely worth consideration. We haven't reviewed any other battery-powered DIY security cameras that manage to deliver HD resolution from a significant distance -- either indoors or outdoors in either day- or night-vision modes. I'm definitely skeptical about the Arlo's ability to properly handle itself in cold temperatures and how the CR123 batteries would fair after several months, but this versatile security kit is still a win.
See the full article by Megan Wollerton CNET at: https://www.cnet.com/products/netgear-arlo-smart-home-security-kit/

If you have a question, comment, or home tip, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can email your questions to us at rod@cbiga.com. We reserve the right to edit questions for length.


* Thought For The Month *
Never take a single breath for granted!

Tip Of The Hat To:
 

Patty Burke
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
925 Sanders Road
Cumming, Georgia 30041
770-883-2457

 

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